Lawyer says website using public jail photos to extort people arrested in SC

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — A Columbia lawyer wants jails across South Carolina to stop publicly posting pictures of people who are arrested.



The pictures are picked up by a Web site called mugshots.com, which posts the photos on its own site. The site charges people as much as $399 to remove a photo, even if charges were dropped, scrubbed from someone’s record or the person was found not guilty, attorney Seth Rose said.

“They are shaming people, then extorting them with no concern about the presumption of innocence,” Rose said.

Rose, who also is a Richland County councilman, has already convinced the Richland County jail to remove photos from its Web site. Information like names, charges and bail amounts remain. The county will continue to treat the jail pictures as public information and e-mail them to media members, county spokeswoman Stephany Snowden said.

Rose is talking to attorneys and other people, trying to figure out a solution that can work statewide. At least 17 counties post pictures of inmates with online jail information. Officials in Florence and Horry counties said they post jail pictures because they are public information and have not heard any complaints.

No one answered the phone number for mugshots.com. The company refused to speak to a reporter at The Daily Gamecock, which first wrote about the issue last week.

Rose represents a Charleston business owner who was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge for shouting obscenities after a football game. The man’s picture is on the mugshots.com Web site.

Rose would not name the business owner.

Rose expects the man will go through a pre-trial program that will eventually erase the charge from his records and permanently delete the picture for government storage. But he fears the picture will remain unless his client pays hundreds of dollars.

“To have lifelong ramifications for a charge of that sort isn’t fair,” Rose said.


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